I’m pleased to publish this contribution from Jennifer Taylor. I’ve been fortunate in managing to avoid a layover with baby in almost all of our flights, thanks to choosing destinations carefully and living in a city with an international airport!
Jennifer is a mom of two who recently spent 6 hours in Detroit Metro Airport with a three-year-old and and eight-month-old, and just returned from Palermo!
As much as I love direct flights, a lot of the time when flying long distances, avoiding a layover just doesn’t work out.
First and foremost, unless it’s simply not possible, I’d recommend avoiding a long layover with baby. I don’t even like layovers when I’m flying without kids, and when you add a young baby into the mix, it’s never a fun time.
However, if you absolutely can’t avoid a layover, you can at least make it easier on you and your child!
The best way to do so is with proper planning. Here is my advice for surviving a long layover with baby in tow.
Consider leaving the airport…
If your layover is considerably long, as in 12 hours or more, you might want to consider leaving the airport completely.
A good option that you could take advantage of is renting a hotel room at the Day Use rate. These rates are rarely advertised and not every hotel will offer them, so you’ll have to call ahead of time to take advantage of it. Most hotels in or near an airport will offer such a rate. (ed note: Our post cruise day room in Orlando was AWESOME.)
Doing so can save you upwards of 25% on their listed rates, so it’s a great option if you can use it. A private hotel room will let you unwind and relax, giving you lots of time for diaper changes, feedings, and anything else you need to do. A pool or recreation area is also a bonus.
I strongly suggest doing this for a long layover with baby if possible, because at the very least, you’re going to be bored out of your mind waiting around at the airport all day!
Take advantage of the airport lounge…
I know what you’re thinking: they’re too expensive. And you’re right; they’re definitely not cheap, but I think they’re well worth it if you’re flying with kids. Especially young ones. Some credit cards come with free lounge access, so if you’re a frequent traveler, this is something to look into.
Think about what the lounges offer you, though. Clean bathrooms, nice and comfortable places to sit and rest, free food and drinks, free wi-fi, and just an overall more comfortable and clean atmosphere.
If you’re breastfeeding, many lounges have privacy chairs that allow you to face away from everyone else and nurse privately, which is a huge benefit to me.
Now, not all airport lounges are amazing, but you can bet that they’re going to be waybetter than being in the general airport lobby. Definitely look into it!
Playing on the floor:
This might sound disgusting at first, but hear me out. I saw a wonderful item on Shark Tank a few years ago called the “Monkey Mat“, which is a lightweight, compact and machine-washable that is specifically meant for airport floors. You don’t necessarily need something like this, but it’s much more lightweight and easy to travel with than a typical sheet.
I love this because trust me, if your layover is long enough, your child is going to appreciate some time unrestrained to play.
For young babies (under one year old) I like to bring a bag along with things like:
- Small toys (inside a ziploc bag), a favorite stuffed animal, maybe a book to read depending on age
- Baby food pouches (a lifesaver for travel)
- All of the much-needed diapering gear
Getting in a nap…
Obviously we’d prefer our babies to sleep on the plane rather than at the airport, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. AND if you’re on a long layover, there’s a good chance you’ll want to get some shuteye before the next flight too.
The best way I’ve found is to wear them in a carrier and just walk around the airport for a little while. This always seems to do the trick for me, and I also love carriers as opposed to strollers at the airport because they free up your hands. Failing that, a push around in the stroller can sometimes work too.
An idea I saw that I really liked was making something of a makeshift “crib” by pushing two soft chairs together face-to-face, and putting a blanket down on it. This is a great little travel hack, but whatever you do, never leave your child unattended!
As for you, if you’re flying with a partner, you can just switch off baby-watching duty while the other person naps. If flying solo it’s a little more tricky, but it’s possible you can get a few winks in safely by having them in a carrier. I wouldn’t sleep without that, because it’s just too risky in my opinion.
Some smaller tips for surviving a long layover with baby:
Use elevators when they’re available. Why not take advantage of them if they’re there? Not every airport has elevators, but in my experience, most US airports that have escalators also have elevators. Don’t feel like you need to be a supermom or superdad!
Know exactly which gate you’ll be arriving at and where you need to be for the next leg of the flight. Many airlines have phone apps that you can check to see this exact information, making it much easier on you when you get there.
Using the bathroom when flying solo with your child can be a challenge. I suggest bringing everything into a wheelchair-accessible stall, but you’ll have a much easier time if you take advantage of the airport lounge.
While a long layover with baby is never a fun time, letting it stress you out and making a big deal out of it won’t make matters any easier. Instead, just try to relax and be prepared. It’s not going to be pleasant, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience.
Jennifer Taylor is the creator and editor of MomTricks, a pregnancy and parenting guide. As the mom of two wonderful kids, she shares her experience and knowledge with her fellow mamas to make their journies easier. Follow her on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook!